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Sweeping Revisions to Water Services Act Aimed at Enhancing Municipal Water Supply in South Africa

Published September 21, 2023
9 months ago

The move to amend the Water Services Act is ratified by urgent issues of insecure and inadequate water supplies to Johannesburg hospitals. Region-specific evidences, such as the SA Human Rights Commission’s harsh findings on the violation of basic human rights in KwaZulu-Natal due to inadequate water supply, stress the necessity for these proposed changes.

The root of these issues, according to the KZN Water Inquiry Report, is not the scarcity of water, but the failure of its delivery by municipalities. Poor management, lack of accountability, and failure in prioritizing essential components for effective service delivery have led to catastrophic consequences such as leaks costing eThekwini metro over 50% of its water supply before reaching end-users.

The proposed amendments to the Water Services Act, poised to be presented to the Cabinet for public comments, aim to correct these shortcomings. The modifications promise to lend greater stability to operating license requirements for water providers and strengthen the power of ministers to take severe action against repeat offenders.

Additionally, a broad review of the local government fiscal framework is also on the table. In case of approval, these proposals are expected to be released for public comment before they return to the Cabinet for the final approval in Parliament. The draft amendment bill is expected to be passed before the Parliament rises for the 2024 elections.

In parallel, the National Water Resource Infrastructure Agency (NWRIA) Bill, is also under review which proposes to merge the functions of the water department, the Water Trading Entity, and the Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA). The merger of these services, through leverage of assets by the NWRIA, could bolster the financial resources to improve the infrastructure and service delivery, thus driving a course correction of South Africa’s water regimen.

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